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CREATIVE THOUGHT AT WORK Missions of mercy


For someone with a linear career path, Ann Barten ’71 certainly gets around. Japan, Nicaragua, Honduras, Kenya, Viet- nam, Columbia. And she’s still going, vol- unteering on medical missions around the world, blending her professional ex- pertise with her humanitarian calling. After receiving her nursing degree from Skidmore, Barten worked at Massa- chusetts General Hospital in Boston, then married and moved to Minnesota, where she began a long career as an in- tensive-care nurse. Throughout a succes- sion of mergers and acquisitions among Minneapolis-area hospitals, she worked with virtually the same team of ICU


great nurses who stayed on because of the challenge and the teamwork. Even when a patient was “crumping” (failing), she recalls, it was extremely rewarding to be part of the team effort in lifesaving. Today, at Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina, Minn., she de- scribes herself as a “re - covering ICU nurse,”


“WE ALWAYS PACK A FEW SUITCASES OF DONATED DRUGS AND OTHER SUPPLIES THAT ARE


ROUTINELY UNAVAILABLE OR SCARCE.”


who has opted for the slightly less stress- ful post-anesthesia care unit. Most of her patients have had open-heart surgery, which itself has become more routine these days. “I made a conscious choice to take it a little easier, travel, and see my fami- ly,” she says. With an eye toward retiring in the next six to eight years, she wants to slow down a little bit at work but continue to travel to other countries on med- ical missions “as long as I can!”


BACK ON HOME TURF, ANN BARTON ’71 AT WORK IN HER HOSPITAL UNIT


nurses the entire time. “I left the ICU with 33 years’ experience, but I was still low man on the totem pole in terms of seniority,” she says. “I was working with


24 SCOPE WINTER 2013


So where did Barten catch the bug for these humanitarian missions? “It stems from my childhood,” she says. “Since I was 8 my fami- ly hosted foreign stu- dents and refugees from places like Hungary, Brazil, Malay sia, and Norway.” Her parents were active in the Amer- ican Field Service and made lifelong friends that way. In her own family, Barten has opened her home to a refugee family from Ethi opia and some stu- dents from France. “I


tried to keep that influence of creating international friendships and fostering those relationships for life.” Her first trip abroad was as a tennis


player for a “sister city” exchange in Japan. There she visited a hospital with her host family and recruited a nurse, sight unseen, to come back and study in the States for a month. Her first medical mis- sion was to Kenya, where she found that doing health-care work in the third world is “eye-opening.”


Now connected to a network of med- ical missionaries, Barten has worked for many different organizations, secular and religious. The trips usually last a week or so, and Barten finds colleagues to cover her shifts back home. Some- times her missions involve home stays, which she prefers: “The people are very receptive, and an exchange of informa- tion is what I’m interested in.” Barten’s overseas work might include front-line doctoring, encountering some diseases unfamiliar in the US. On surgical missions she works as a recovery nurse, which is closer to home, but, she notes, “The first thing you notice is the lack of supplies. We always pack a few suitcases of donated prescription drugs and other supplies that are routinely unavailable or scarce. Before we prescribe any med, we need to check with the doctors in the local clinics to see if it’s even available.” She encounters conditions that most Americans would be shocked to discover: moldy ventilator bags, old and bent sur- gical equipment, no pain medication for open-heart surgery patients until they’re off the ventilator. Where preventive treatment or adequate disease-manage- ment tools are lacking, Barten sees a lot of advanced disease states that would be uncommon in this country. It’s the people, both patients and co- workers, that keep bringing her back. “I get so much more out of these missions than I give. I’m lucky to help others, make new friends, and be able to see countries as they really are,” she muses. “It’s the ultimate gift to me, their friend- ship.” —Jon Wurtmann ‘78


LEE PROHOFSKY


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